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California Says No More Restaurant Capacity Limits or Physical Distancing Starting June 15

State officials announced a reopening plan with a date on Friday

Restaurant goers enjoy dinner at Cassia as the much loved restaurant re-opens its indoor dining and continues outdoor dining. Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

California is approaching a milestone moment since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago. On May 21, California officials announced the state will fully reopen without restrictions on June 15. As the first state to officially shelter-in-place, California will convert back to zero restrictions on indoor and outdoor capacity limits and physical distancing at restaurants and bars within the next three weeks.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly stated that California will no longer require any pandemic-related constraints, which moves the state into a full reopening, reports the LA Times. With half of Californians fully vaccinated and COVID-19 infection/death rates remarkably low, Ghaly believes the state is ready. The color-coded system used to track the pandemic will no longer be used.

Over the last few weeks, government agencies shifted their stance concerning COVID-19 restrictions. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been signaling the June 15 reopening date since April. In early May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks and social distancing, but Los Angeles county officials were clear they were not ready to align with the federal agency just yet.

More changes will come after the Division of Occupational Safety and Health or Cal/OSHA updates California’s workplace rules in early June. LAist reports the state agency — which determines safety regulations for employers throughout California — could allow vaccinated workers without COVID-19 symptoms to no longer wear masks if workers did not display symptoms.

After June 15, expect to see the following in restaurants and bars across the state:

  • Bars, restaurants, concert venues, and grocery stores can operate at full indoor and outdoor capacity.
  • California will utilize CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people who will not be required to wear masks, except for public transit, flights, and when visiting health care facilities.
  • Physical distancing requirements will not be required at public and private events.
  • Large venues, like sports arenas and performance stages, will no longer have capacity limits. But a vaccine verification or a negative test will be required for indoor events with more than 5,000 people, and the vaccine verification or negative test will be recommended for outdoor events with 10,000 people or more.
  • People traveling into the state will not be required to isolate or quarantine.

Until June 15, LA County restaurants will maintain its 50 percent capacity requirement indoors and outdoors, along with six feet of distance between tables. Restaurant workers will keep wearing masks and face shields, and restaurant staff will appreciate no longer having to play mask police with customers. That very well means that for the first time in 15 months, you might see restaurant and bar employees working without masks, though it’s likely establishments will continue to encourage its workers to mask up if they choose.